Sunday, November 19, 2023

The Sunday Post #346

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The Sunday Post is a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, tell you what I’m reading, and share news. It’s hosted by The Caffeinated Book ReviewerReaderbuzz, and Book Date.

The Sunday Post #346

On The Blog Recently

In My Reading Life

I read Banished: Surviving My Years In The Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain and Lisa Pulitzer. This memoir is exactly what it says on the cover. When Lauren was a teenager, her abusive and mentally unstable father moved their family from Florida to Kansas to join a cult. If you live in the US, you've probably seen Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) on TV. They hold up offensive signs at the funerals of dead soldiers. Lauren joined the group as a teenager and was kicked out when she was in her twenties.

I appreciated learning more about what WBC believes, even if their beliefs make no sense to me. They think they're the only people who are going to Heaven. Everyone else on the planet is going to Hell. God decides a person's fate before the person is born, and there's nothing that can change God's mind. WBC sees themselves as God's messengers. For some reason, God wants us to know we're going to Hell, and there's nothing we can do about it. That's why WBC pickets funerals. It gets them attention so they can spread God's message. I don't understand why we need the message if there's nothing we can do about it, but whatever.

I was surprised that WBC lets their kids go to public school. I'm not surprised that WBC threated to sue the school if the kids got bad grades. I'm also not surprised that WBC requires the kids to picket outside the school on their lunch break. Lauren even picketed her own high school graduation while wearing a cap and gown. That's serious dedication to the whole "God Hates America" thing.

Many members of WBC are lawyers, but they (or Lauren) don't understand the First Amendment. It protects you from the government. It does not protect you from other protesters because they are not the government. If WBC can picket, then other people can too.

I have mixed feelings about this book. The author lived through horrendous stuff, and she's brave to share her story. However, I wish she'd waited another 10+ years to write a memoir. Right now, the book feels very shallow. I think if the author had more distance from her life in WBC, she could have dug deeper into the events and offered more insight. Right now, it reads like a teenage girl's diary. There's a lot of drama but not much analysis. I'll be interested in reading other memoirs from former WBC members and seeing how they compare.

Then I read Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, And Dying In The National Parks by Andrea Lankford. Since I've been working in a state park since 2019, I thought reading this book would be stressful. It was! I picked it up and put it down so many times. It's a book full of worst-case scenarios. I mean, this quote is in the introduction:

"In the United States, a park ranger is more likely to be assaulted in the line of duty than is any other federal officer."

Fun times. Let's quickly move on.

Andrea Lankford spent twelve years as a ranger in various national parks. This book includes all the behind-the-scenes stuff that park visitors don't see. The author writes about the accidents and deaths, the brutal work schedule, and the crappy living conditions for the staff. Her writing style is surprisingly funny. She has the gallows humor that seems to be common among park employees.

Here are the two paragraphs that resonated with my experiences the most:

"There are slow days. Tedious, boring days when, if you have to give any more directions to any more confused visitors or impound any more improperly stored food or type any more fender-bender accident reports or direct any more traffic around any more bear jams or smile politely at any more tourists who call you "rangerette," you swear you're going to drop a gallon of whiskey into your backpack, hike a hundred miles into the wilderness, and never come back. There are days when you wish for something interesting to happen just to break up the monotony. Sometimes your wish is granted, and you immediately want to take it back."

"Collecting fees at the park entrance gate benefitted Brittney Ruland in many ways . . . But working in the fee booth—sucking in the exhaust, performing mind-numbing cashier duties, and fending off the complaints of stingy park visitors—eight hours a day, five days a week—also came with one major drawback. It killed her spirit."

As you can probably see from the quotes, the book dwells on the negative. The author is burnt out. I completely understand why. She spent twelve years dealing with death and difficult people while severely sleep deprived. I wouldn't be happy either.

If you want to work in parks, I highly recommend this book. It'll give you a realistic view of all the bad things that happen. But, the job isn't all bad. You get to see bizarre and beautiful things that (often) make the pain worth it.

Then I read Raising The Dead: The Men Who Created Frankenstein by Andy Dougan. This is a medical history nonfiction book about the science of galvanism. "Galvanism" seems to be a fancy name for "electrocuting corpses and watching them twitch." In the early 1800s, scientists believed that electricity could cure diseases and possibly even raise the dead. They were somewhat correct. This book is about their (often gruesome) experiments.

If you're interested in the history of medicine, then the information in this book is fascinating. I loved learning about Scotland in the 1800s. I enjoyed the stories of the doctors and the executed criminals who made scientific advancements. It's interesting to learn about the missteps, the quackery, and the animal cruelty. I read most of the book in one night because it's compelling.

However, it seriously lacks focus. I suspect there aren't enough historical records about galvanism to create an entire book. The author goes deep into the personal lives of the doctors and the recently dead criminals they used in their experiments. The analysis of Mery Shelley's Frankenstein seems a bit random because the real-life doctors weren't attempting to create new life. They were trying to create defibrillators, which is much less scandalous. While I was reading, I often wished the author would stop meandering and get to the point.

If you can overlook the misleading title and quite a few typos, this is an informative read. I learned a lot.

In The Rest Of My Life

Five things that made me happy recently:

  1. New AJR album. I've been listening to it pretty much nonstop since it came out. My current favorite songs are "Yes I'm A Mess," "Inertia," and "Hole In The Bottom Of My Brain."
  2. I think I have health insurance for next year? It's too early to celebrate, but it's looking promising.
  3. My friend is back in Colorado. We got to hang out while I was at work because she's a volunteer who lives in the park during the winter. I missed her.
  4. Since I'm working fewer hours, I got to rejoin book club. I couldn't go to any of the meetings during the summer because I was at work for every single one of them.
  5. It was Secret Santa pairing day. I got my person and already started shopping and spending way too much money. I hope she loves her gifts.

Pay Attention To Me!

Take care of yourselves and be kind to each other. See you around the blogosphere!


  1. Your book reviews are wonderful. I really enjoyed reading your take about the cult story, though I don't think I want to read the entire book (meaning I even more appreciated your work in summarizing it).
    Your blog has been everything I ever read about the life of a park ranger, so I enjoyed reading your summary of the book. Another good review.
    best, mae at

  2. I love the five things that made you happy recently! That's such a good idea for a blog post...I might have to do that sometimes next year. And that Park Ranger book sounds good...I read another book by Lankford and really liked it: Trail of the Lost. And that top meme made me laugh, especially Haunt the Witnesses. :D Have a great week!

  3. I am glad you can join your bookclub again AJ! Enjoy your lighter schedule!

  4. I know nothing and had to google AJR. I'm good now. Reunited and it feels so good! Glad you are enjoying the return of your friend. Wow, she lives in the park in the winter? That's interesting. It's great you could return to book club, and I hope you have fun doing your secret santa shopping.

  5. Reading a negative book about being a park ranger had to be difficult. The five things are always great and provide a window to your soul. I have to figure out our health insurance pretty soon. I haven't even looked yet. Enjoy this time with a more relaxed schedule.

    Anne - Books of My Heart This is my Sunday Post

  6. Hooray for being able to do fun things again!

  7. Hooray for being able to go to book club again! Thanks for the reviews, they all sound like interesting reads. Think I'd especially enjoy reading about National Parks....though probably not working there -ha!

  8. The church book and the ranger book both sound fascinating. I don't get the WBC thing, especially the part about predestination. But I guess it takes all kinds...

  9. Thank you for the reminder -- I need to shop for my secret santa/elf recipient! Also, after a week of nonstop sitting at the computer, the opening meme made me laugh, so thank you for that, too.

    Your first two books this week sound interesting, but a bit depressing. It's too bad the park ranger book focused so much on the negative stuff. It's not that I don't believe her about the very real downsides, but surely there are also good things about being a ranger? Some people (including someone I sang in choir with) seem to enjoy the job.

    Enjoy your reading this week, and I hope you get Thanksgiving Day off! Oh, and fingers crossed about the health insurance!

  10. Park ranger was one of my fantasy careers. That book would definitely blow up the fantasy.

    I recently watched the biopic where Mary Shelley was played by Elle Fanning. The galvanism experiments were part of the plot and interesting to see.

  11. Working as a park ranger seems so stressful! I can't believe you don't have health insurance (probably because you are part time? But still!). I get so frustrated with this country and our pathetic offering of health care (or not) for our workers.

  12. I would think Ranger Confidential would resonate with you. You've got a tough job! I don't know why the people of WBC would picket when according to their beliefs there's nothing to be done either way. If that was the case why not live your life up and do whatever the hell you want because it wouldn't make any difference anyhow. I'll have to check out your Canva post. I'm terrible with that website!

  13. I love a good Secret Santa - they can be so much fun! Have a great Thanksgiving AJ!

  14. I'm laughing at your meme yet again. I always enjoy them.

  15. Your books look really interesting. That's great that you can rejoin the book club again. I hope you have a great week. Happy Thanksgiving!

  16. Interesting variety of books. I enjoyed your five things too. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

  17. Banished does sound interesting. I don't pick up books to read that I think will stress me out, LOL! Kudos to you for reading Ranger. Have a great week. Happy Thanksgiving! cindysbookcorner

  18. Those tips are funny! Lol! Love your list of "happies" too. Have a great week. :-)

  19. Those are some very interesting books! And I didn't realize the WBC believes you already can't go to Heaven, so what's the point then? How will they get anyone to join? Crazy! Looks like some good things might be coming up for you, so let's hope it stays that way! Have a nice thanksgiving!

  20. Argh that Ranger book sounds pretty negative. I'm not sure if I were a ranger, I could read it. You got to find the positive side of things too ... right?

  21. Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, And Dying In The National Parks is a book I have been very curious about. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about it. I definitely think you could write your own version of that story.

    Happy Thanksgiving! I'm just getting around to visiting my blog friends this week---apologies for being so late to the table.

  22. Added both those books to my TBR! The AJR songs are not my cup of tea but I love that cartoon image on the YouTube page the links take me to!!!